Tag Haunted Ship

Ghost Ship (2002)

Ghost Ship (2002)

Sea evil

A salvage crew discover a long-lost 1962 passenger ship floating lifeless in a remote region of the Bering Sea. Heading aboard to inspect her before towing her back to land, the crew find more than they bargained for with a massive haul of gold bars in the cargo hold. However, strange things begin to happen to the crew and they realise that something is not quite right with this ship.

 

The late 90s and early 00s saw a number of big budget ghost films being released, including The Haunting, The House on Haunted Hill and Thir1en Ghosts, all three remakes of earlier haunted house horror films, revamped for a new generation of genre fans. American film label Dark Castle were responsible for two of those aforementioned attempts at recapturing the B-movie vibe of the originals and here they are with a third attempt. Ghost Ship is not a remake of anything but a film so unoriginal and filled with ideas from other films that it might as well be. Deep Rising, Event Horizon and The Shining seem to be high on the list of films that the makers of this have seen – even the poster has been ‘inspired’ by 1980’s Death Ship.

Starting off with an impressively gory set piece, the signs look good for Ghost Ship to continue its momentum. However, you’d be best off switching off at this point because the film goes downhill quickly. Director Steve Beck was responsible for the poor Thir1en Ghosts the year earlier and brings with him the same box of tricks that he believes create scares and makes films frightening. This involves horrible things popping out from unexpected places in front of the camera, lots of freaky spectral visions which twist and contort and then disappear, loud bursts of noise to startle the audience, nauseating camera angles, fast and slow motion shots, and ghosts playing tricks on people by making them believe something is real when it isn’t. Ghost Ship repeats the same tactics for pretty much the same results.  The scares aren’t effective. The smoke and mirrors show wears thin. It’s all style over substance. Don’t get me wrong, the film looks good. The ship itself is suitably spooky and the cinematography is decent at creating an ominous atmosphere – it’s a shame that there’s not much to go with it.

Ghost Ship is a film geared towards its final twist. It’s hardly a riveting revelation to base an entire story around and I’m sure the writers were giving themselves a massive pat on the back whilst structuring the narrative around it. The problem is that it affects the rest of the film – it’s such a pointless last-minute dash to turn the story on its head that you’ll be thinking about all of the contradictions it raises from the previous hour of screen time. It’s the only novel thing about the entire script. Everything else runs as predictability as the sun rising and setting every day. Without a really meaty story, Beck relies on his bag of tricks that he’s accumulated from the commercials that he directed before heading into feature films. Only pre-pubescent teenagers with no concept of real horror films would believe that Ghost Ship was clever and unpredictable!

More of the blame can be squarely laid at the script rather than anything else on show. The salvage team is your usual eclectic group of people who, in the real world, would most likely not give each other the time of day. However this is a horror film and so diversity is essential. The group is made up of stereotypes and you’ll be able to paint numbers on their heads as to who is going to die and in what order. The kills are a mixed bunch – nothing quite like the gory prologue – and are fairly over-the-top in traditional slasher film fashion.

The sad thing is that there’s a decent cast bubbling around doing not very much. Gabriel Byrne is a good actor but he’s hamming it up as the alcoholic captain due to the dodgy script. Julianna Margulies looks like she’d rather be back on ER than trying to ‘do a Ripley’ and be the all-action female hero. Look out for Karl Urban (Dr McCoy in the new Star Trek films, Judge Dredd in the excellent Dredd, etc.) in an earlier role as one of the expendable crew. We know that this people can act so give them something to get their teeth into rather than forcing them to spout some bone-headed dialogue. At least the script does one thing right: as soon as the group find the stash of gold, they decide to pack it up and leave the ship as soon as possible.

 

Ghost Ship is a horror film intended for the easily-impressed MTV audience – superficial scares designed to appeal to pimply-faced teenagers sneaking into the cinema to see their first horror movie. There’s no foundation to the fancy trickery and anyone with half a brain will be able to see straight through the fog machines and strobe lights and realise what Ghost Ship truly is. 

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Lost Voyage (2001)

Lost Voyage (2001)

After 30 years in the Bermuda Triangle … a GHOST SHIP returns

Twenty-five years ago, the SS Corona Queen disappeared in the region known as the Bermuda Triangle. When it suddenly re-appears, a team of investigators head on board with a salvage team to find out what happened. But the ship didn’t return from the Bermuda Triangle alone.

 

Ghost Ship anyone? Incorrectly speaking to class it a rip-off, Lost Voyage was actually made first and manages to be better than the previously mentioned horror flick, opting not to go for the visual jugular with gore and special effects but instead trying to craft a more traditional and scary ghost flick. Actually Lost Voyage has more in common with 1997’s sci-fi horror Event Horizon. Comparing it to both bigger budget films is decent praise to kick off the review and Christian McIntire’s ambitious shocker is certainly punching above its own weight.

For a TV movie, Lost Voyage does relatively well for its budgetary limitations. The first thing that will strike you is how pedestrian it all looks though. There’s little life and energy to the cinematography and everything is glossed over with that typical TV-movie low budget sheen. This is a shame as the ship itself looks pretty spooky at times and the sets are quite atmospheric. But they lack that extra enhancement which the cinematography could have given them. Even though the film is set solely at night, the ship itself is too well lit. Dimming the lights a little to create dark and shadowy backgrounds is what the film should have done.

There are a couple of strong performances from Janet Gunn as the reporter and Judd Nelson as the researcher – they could have been just any other stereotypical cannon fodder characters but at least they bring a bit of depth and likeability to their roles. Nelson could have cut out his mumbling though as he sometimes drifts through his dialogue. Lance Henriksen pops up and manages to completely outshine his previous six or seven roles in low budget films to remind us that he was once a decent character actor before he was reduced to starring in trash such as Mangler 2: Graduation Day.

The characters are well-written for a change and it is refreshing to see. They do (for the most part) sensible things – Henriksen’s character tells the rest of the group that they have to get off the ship as soon as the first person is killed. He’s not bothered about the money on board and just wants to save his life. Characters do things that give them believability, not just provide opportunities to put them into set pieces.

Sadly little else makes sense in the film. The ghosts themselves are mean spirited in some occasions but are quite happy to let characters walk past other times without even batting an eyelid at them. There are a few small plot threads that aren’t explained very well (if at all) such as the ghosts using people’s fears against them. And of course, when you’re watching a ‘haunted place’ film you should expect to feel one or two shivers which this film greatly fails to produce. The special effects for the ghosts aren’t bad for CGI but you won’t actually care because they look quite graceful when floating around the ship. For once CGI has its appropriate uses and the ghosts aren’t overdone. They’re not scary though!

 

Lost Voyage is an ambitious film held down by its budget and lack of creativity. For a TV movie it’s impressive and looks and sounds good throughout. But it lacks the finishing touch and without any real chills or scares throughout, the film suffers from being too familiar with any other ghost ship film.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Death Ship (1980)

Death Ship (1980)

Those who survive the ghost ship are better off dead!

Unbeknown to the passengers on board a cruise ship in the Caribbean, a mysterious vessel is approaching on a collision course. Despite the efforts of the crew to avert a disaster, the ship is lost with all hands, except for a handful of survivors. Drifting on a raft, they come across an apparently-deserted freighter and decide to go aboard and await rescue. However the fate that awaits them on board is worse than anything they could have imagined as the freighter used to be a Nazi torture ship and needs blood to keep running.

 

It’s great when obscure films get DVD releases. I said it in my review for Mountaintop Motel Massacre that I appreciate it when studios like Anchor Bay snap up the rights to this sort of film and release them on DV, even if they are not very good. It allows people like me the chance to find films that I’d never heard of. So I almost wet myself when I saw this being released on DVD. Here is a film that sounds a lot like the rather naff Ghost Ship (even closely ripping off the poster artwork) but was made in a time when cheese and low budgets were the order of the day as opposed to special effects and sound bursts. So how does it handle?

Death Ship’s low budget does show and it shows very early on. The footage of both the cruise ship and the freighter is clearly culled from other films – the cruiser is all lit up in night time footage whilst the freighter goes full steam ahead in the day. I guess you’re supposed to believe they’re on a collision course as the footage quickly cuts from one ship to the next with ominous music playing in the background. You don’t even see the collision, just a few extras throwing themselves around the set as the camera shakes. Again the footage of the sinking ship is ‘borrowed’ from other ocean disaster films. The funny thing is that when you see just who survived the collision, you’ll be amazed at how they did given that they’re all from different parts of the ship. It’s also very convenient that the only people who had speaking roles before the collision are the only ones who survive!

The Nazi freighter looks great it has to be said. I know that it’s only a normal freighter but the way in which its shot on camera, with long dimly-lit corridors and constantly creaking doors and windows really gives it that extra dimension. There are shaky hand-held POV angles galore, with each tilt of the lens adding another layer of madness and mayhem to the proceedings. Unfortunately there’s not a great deal that’s done with the setting and once the characters are aboard, the film just shifts into an ‘explore/death/explore/death’ cycle. The film has a few decent ideas but they’re all just thrown out there in the hope they’ll stick. Everything and anything happens on board the ship including a gramophone which keeps playing, the on-ship cinema which keeps playing Nazi rally footage and germ-warfare sweets which lay in the cupboards. You never see any ghosts or zombies or anything so those expecting the ship to be full of rotting Nazis best look elsewhere.

The set pieces are decent and not overly violent or gory. One guy is hoisted into the air by a crane and then dropped into the sea. Another is crushed to death in a pile of rotting corpses. The most famous scene from this flick, and probably the reason it was derived by the censors when it was released, is that of the blood shower. A naked chick gets a shower which runs blood. This mixture of nudity and blood has always been frowned upon in the UK (Hammer fell victim to many of the censors with some of their ‘blood on nipple’ scenes) but nowadays it just looks pretty timid.

There’s a decent cast here for such a B picture. George Kennedy (Leslie Nielsen’s hilariously deadpan partner from The Naked Gun films) stars as the captain of the cruise ship who starts to go crazy once he’s on the freighter. He hams it up to immense proportions as the voices in his head talk German to him and tell him to do nasty things. Richard Crenna (from the Rambo films) is also around and adds some believability to the proceedings. I was a bit annoyed to see no less than two children survive the collision meaning that although there were seven survivors, the two children were pretty much ‘untouchable’ by horror standards which greatly lowered the potential body count.

One other thing of note is the music, which is pretty sinister when coupled with the shots of the freighter steaming ahead through the seas unopposed. It all adds up to a very unsettling and uneasy ambiance to the film.

 

Death Ship is a classic example of B-movie making at its best and an even better example of the “they don’t make them like this anymore” school of filmmaking.  It shouldn’t work but it does and works very well – better than I guess anyone making it would have imagined. This is one voyage you won’t forget in a hurry.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆